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Supporters Greet Chinese Premier Amidst Protest

By Frank Dabek and Kristen Landino

staff reporters

Supporters of Premier Zhu Rongji outnumbered protesters in the crowds lining Massachusetts Avenue and Memorial Drive prior to his address on Wednesday. MIT Campus Police estimated that 4,000 people were present at the demonstrations.

The protesters represented causes ranging from Tibetan independence to stopping technology transfer to China. Three arrests and several minor altercations marred the otherwise peaceful protests which were overseen by State, Park Commission, County, MBTA and MIT Campus Police.

Many protesters wore “Free Tibet” shirts and shouted slogans such as “shame on China” and “Tibet for Tibetans.” Pro-Zhu forces carried Chinese and American flags.

Arrests mar demonstrations

Frank Pasquarello of the Cambridge Police said that three arrests were made. Kim Meston and Deja Meston were arrested for disorderly conduct. According to Pasquarello, the Mestons were pushing and shoving in the crowds.

Rick Roth, who was protesting with Amnesty International, said that Meston had been arrested by Cambridge Police before 9 a.m. Roth said that the Mestons had been behaving peaceably and didn’t provoke their arrest. “A lot of us were actually talking to the other side,” Roth said.

A third protester, Mingro Zhou, was arrested for disorderly conduct and assault and battery with a deadly weapon, namely a flagpole, according to Pasquarello.

Roth said that much of the violence began after an altercation over a loudspeaker set up by pro-Zhu forces.

Chinese student clubs mobilize

Liwi Chen, a Harvard student, was one of the many demonstrators supporting Zhu. He said that Zhu’s visit was “a good opportunity to show our support” for the premier. Chinese students clubs from several other Boston-area universities were also present at the rally.

Bexley Hall resident Dingli Chen ’99, also supported Zhu. She said that he “has a lot of intelligent thoughts” and can “offer insight” into China. Chen answered concerns about human rights by saying that Chinese citizens have a different set of expectations for human rights and that many value stability more highly than such rights.

Dingli Chen said that protesters were “not taking full advantage of his visit,” by not engaging in dialog with the premier and by aggravating tensions. “Peace right now is the most important thing,” she said.

Nearby Liwi Chen on Memorial Drive, Ngodup Sangpo, a native Tibetan, was protesting to “raise the voice for people who are suffering in Tibet” due to Chinese “atrocities.”

The close proximity of conflicting viewpoints led to tensions which sometimes erupted into violence. Liwi Chen said that the anti-Zhu forces had the “right to share their voice but [it is] also our right to to share our voice.”

Ngodup characterized the Zhu supporters as the children of “high class officials” in China. Allen Harrison, who was protesting alongside Ngodup said that the supporters “don’t seem to remember Tiananmen square.”

Violence erupted briefly when protesters marched towards Memorial Drive. When they were detained by barriers the protesters tore down pro-China signs and burned Chinese flags. At another point during the morning, pro-Chinese forces and protesters traded slogans across Amherst drive.

Diverse viewpoints represented

While many protesters were devoted to the cause of an independent Tibet and a fully independent Taiwan, more marginal viewpoints were also present.

Jerry Hallaren, a representative of Lyndon H. Larouche, called for an United States economic alliance with China and a break from the International Monetary Fund and currency speculation. Hallaren cited Indonesia’s currency crisis and dropping Mexican food production as the results of the International Monetary Fund system. You “can’t eat computer chips,” Hallaren said. “Food is going to be a rare commodity” if the current system continues, he said.

Doug Wagner protested technology transfer to China. “We have a major problem with technology transfer,” he said. Wagner said that the transfer rocket technology to China has “already compromised our ability to defend ourself.”

Wagner’s brother Ken told other protesters, “Welcome to America now why don’t you go back.” Doug Wagner described him as “feisty.”

Other forms of demonstration included flags hung from Ashdown House windows and a car which drove up and down Massachusetts Avenue blaring the Chinese national anthem from loudspeakers.

Zhu gives speech at Park Plaza

Following his address at MIT, Zhu traveled to the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston to meet with Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci as well as numerous local business leaders over lunch.

His speech touched on global economic issues and made clear Zhu’s desire to increase U.S. business investment in China.

Both protesters and supporters trailed Zhu to Boston and demonstrated outside the Park Plaza Hotel during his speech.

Many of those present in front of the 77 Massachusetts Avenue entrance to MIT in the morning marched over the Harvard Bridge to Park Plaza at 12:30 p.m., continuing to chant cries of protest or welcome.

Boston Police closed off the streets surrounding Park Plaza as Zhu’s motorcade entered the area and demonstrators began to line the streets.

“We want to let the city of Boston know that we do not support China’s occupation of Tibet. Human rights in Tibet is more important than United States business interests,” said Yiu Tak, a Tibetan immigrant.

Numbers of supporters equaled those of protesters at the event. In total, about 1,000 people showed up outside the Park Plaza Hotel for Zhu’s speech.

“Premier Zhu is a good leader. He has served China well. We want to show our support, and welcome him to the United States,” said one Chinese nationalist.